The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is breeding barn owls under an innovative new programme that hopes to deter rodents from attacking crops in northern Laos.
Rats in Laos turned their attention to crops last year, with devastating results for farmers, after bamboo plants flowered and the number of bamboo seeds decreased as a result. To prevent a repeat of that situation, FAO is using the barn owl, a natural predator, to control the rodent population.
Serge Verniau, the agency`s representative in Laos, told UN Radio yesterday that FAO is not promoting rodenticide, but rather using the barn owl to mitigate the risk and to avoid other outbreaks.
The three-year scheme, he stressed, requires the cooperation of farmers.
At present, the initiative " the pilot version of which will be launched next month " has no donor support, but Mr. Verniau voiced hope that support will be forthcoming because business as usual can no longer continue.